Face Music - History: Horsemen – Nomads
      • History of the Horsemen

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P & C December 1998
- Face Music / Albi

- last update 03-2016

  • Avars – Oghurs
    - 6th century to 8th century after Christ
- map sketch:
The Avars were an equestrian people immigrating from the Central Asian area whose origins in view of ethnics and language have not been comprehensively defined so far. In the Early Middle Ages, for more than 200 years, they ruled over Central Europe while settling in the Pannonian Basin (Carpathian Basin); during this period of time, however, they were the most important power factor between Franconia (today Bavaria and Thuringia) and the Byzantine Empire.

According to Chinese chronicles, the Var (Uar Avars – Juan Juan) supposedly were a branch of the Indo-European Yuezhi migrating from the Tarim Basin to Afghanistan. After being defeated by the Northern Wei Dynasty, they re-emerged in 463 after Christ as newly immigrated nomads at the Black Sea. The Avar main line, hence, consisted of two dynasties capable of exercising power which both derived their tribal names from the two mythicals kings with the same names. The Avars, in the period of time to follow, possibly also were a rather dominating line among the Hephthalites (White Huns) and presumably settled also in the proximity of the Sea.

After 555 after Christ, the Avars, pressurized by the Gök-Turks, migrated to the West, and in 558 they joined the federation of the Byzantine Empire. Around 560 they succeeded in beating the Proto-Bulgars (Volga-Bulgars – Black Bulgars) at the Black Sea, but continued their migration due to the Gök-Turks pursueing them. In 567, in alliance with the Lombards (a Germanic people), they destroyed the realm of the Gepids (German people who had originally settled in Romania) located in the area of the later Transylvania.
  • Gök-Turks – Kök-Turks (Turkestan): The empire of the Gök-Turks established between 552 and 742 an association of nomad tribes, which was only discontinued for about 50 years between the first and the second Empire, when the founders of the realm (who were called t‘u-chüeh by the Chinese) were strongly dependent on the Chinese Tang Dynasty. The empire of the Gök-Turks extended, at least at some points in history, from the Caspian Sea as far as Manchuria, and it also was the first nation in the history of the Central Asian nomad states to have the Old Turkic language as official language, which may – doubtless – be determined on the basis of archaelogical findings of funeral steles in the honour of their rulers, the so-called Orkhon script or runes.
    (see more information:
    Gök-Turks – Kök-Turks)

  • Proto-Bulgars: The terms Bolgars or also Hun-Bulgars denominate a Turkic people with Middle-Age origin. Parts of this equestrian people were assimilated by Slavic peoples and are considered ancestors of today's Slavic Bulgars. (see more information: Proto-Bulgars)

In the middle of the 6th century, they governed the province of Pannonia (Roman province) and settled in the Carpathian Basin. Already rather early under the rule of the Proto-Bulgars there was established settlement with tributary Slavs, as may be proven by means of archaelogical findings of tombs in Hennersdorf near Vienna. They, however, also mixed with the Black Huns who had stayed on in the Hungarian Basin and probably showed the biggest similarities in view of language, culture, and way of living.

  • Pannonia was a province of the Roman Empire from 9 to 433 after Christ. Up to the middle of the 1st century, it was called Illyricum inferius. The province consisted of the western half of today's Hungary, the Burgenland, parts of eastern Styria, parts of the Vienna Basin, Syrmia in Serbia and, last bot not least, the area of today's Slovenia and Croatia between the rivers Drava and Save. In 103 after Christ, the province was divided into two parts, around the year 300 it was quartered, and in 433 after Christ the area was ceded to Attila the Hun.

At the end of the 6th century their area of influence was defined by the Baltic Sea, on the one, and the Volga, on the other side. Under their Khagan Baian (Great Khan) they represented a power as big as to take their toll from the Byzantine Empire as well as from Franconia. Consequently, however, they were forced onto the defensive in the 90ies of the 6th century after Christ by the Byzantine Emperor Maurice, nearly being completely defeated and beaten. After Maurice's being overthrown in the year 602 the Byzantine Empire was pushed into chaos and anarchy, and the Avars finally succeeded in beating the Lombards in Friuli in 610 and the Franks in 611 after Christ. Subsequently, the Avars conquered the Balkan Peninsula – in spite of the fact that Imperator Phokas (of the East-Roman Empire) – already overthrown – had concluded a tributary peace in the year 604. In alliance with the subordinated Slavs the Avars besieged the city of Thessaloniki several times, and in 626 - in union with the Persian Sassanides – they even besieged the Eastern Roman capital Constantinople – without success, however. They never again regained their reputation of being invincible which they had lost in their fight with Emperor Maurice. In the course of the decades to come, more and more Slavic princes withraw from direct Avarian influence and expanded their power onto the Balkan Peninsula. Also at other places in the realm Slavic tribes revolted under the Frankish merchant Samo (Bohemia, Moravia) and got rid of Avarian suzerainty. With these events, the climax of the Avarian power was definitely nearing its end, and the hostility towards the Byzantine Empire ceased to exist – due to lack of a common frontier.

- map sketch: Varagians – Kiev' Rus

Up to the end of the 8th century they still continued to rule over the entire Pannonian area as well as Carantania (principality of Carinthia), Styria, Lower Austria, Slovenia and Croatia; they saw themselves, however, more frequently confronted by increasing attacks by the Bulgars, Croats and other Slavic tribes. In the cruzades that took place from 791 to 803 after Christ, the Avars were completely devastated by the Frankish King (from 800 after Christ on Imperator) Charles the Great in alliance with the Bulgarian Khan Krum. The Avars, which had by then already settled, now ceased to have any contact with the other peoples of the steppes, and their political influence was steadily decreasing. The people of the Avars, such as that of the Huns, simply assimilated in part with some South-Slavic peoples.

• There are still discussions going on about the question whether the Caucasian Avars in Dagestan are descendants of some of the historic Avars or not. There are, however, some theories stating that parts of the Avarian population did stay in the Caucasus area after invasions into Europe. Settling there, these people have adapted their culture and language to Caucasian culture and language.

February - July 2009 – Albi – translated by Hermelinde Steiner - October 2009